The Church of Christ at Wisconsin Rapids

Questions About Baptism

What is baptism?

The word “baptize” comes from the Greek word “baptizō.” It means to dip or to dunk or to submerge. When “baptizō” appears in the bible, it is always used of cleansing. For example:

Mark 7:4:
When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash (baptizō).
Luke 11:38:
When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed (baptizō) before dinner.

Of course, “baptizō” is also used of the specific religious act that we call baptism.

See also: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36-38

Baptism is submersion in water. This comes from the definition of the word, as well as the description of how it was done. Acts 8:38, in describing the baptism of an Ethiopian man, says that they “went down into the water, and he baptized him.”

Baptism is a symbolic burial, in which our old sinful selves are put to death and we are cleansed from our sins.

Romans 6:3-7:

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Baptism is how God has chosen to save us.

Mark 16:16:
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

See also: 1 Peter 3:21

In the bible examples where people realized that they were sinners who needed saving, they asked what they should do and they were told to be baptized.

Acts 2:37-38:

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

See also: Acts 16:30-33

Can infants be baptized?

Baptism is a cleansing of sins in which our old sinful selves are put to death (see above). Infants do not have old sinful selves because they have not yet committed any sins, nor do they inherit any sins.

Ezekiel 18:20:
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.

Also, the bible shows that belief is a prerequisite for baptism. In Acts 8:36-37, an Ethiopian man asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” And he was told, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” This man had to believe in order to be baptized. An infant is not capable of believing.

Why is baptism necessary? Doesn’t God save us by faith alone? Isn’t baptism a work?

The bible does say that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8-7; Romans 4:5-8). But can a person really be considered faithful to God if he or she does not put forth a sincere effort to do what He says?

If we were saved by works, sincere effort would not matter. Only results would matter.

We are saved by God’s grace through faith, but we are lying to ourselves about being faithful if we make no effort to comply with the instructions in God’s word.

James 2:17-18
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

The act of baptism may be a work, but it is an easy one. It takes no skill and very little time. Can we really claim to be faithful to God if we refuse to do even this?